Demand Honest Labeling in Fair Trade Products

fairtrade

Target: Paul Rice, President of Fair Trade USA

Goal:  Get Fair Trade USA to reform its labeling process and stop falsely labeling fair trade products.

Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) recently decided to allow the use of its fair trade seal on products even if the majority of their ingredients are not fair trade. The seal’s standards only require that the specific fair trade ingredient is listed in small text under the seal. Fair Trade USA is also electing to maintain its subpar threshold of just 20% fair trade contents to merit a label. The proposed labeling policy falls below the standards upheld by the larger fair trade movement, and is detrimental to the fair trade movement and misleading to consumers. Fair Trade USA needs to increase its standards and implement a labeling process that honestly reflects the content of its products.

Other fair trade certifiers have thresholds of at least 50% fair trade content in order to label the final product fair trade and many have requirements to list the percentage of fair trade ingredients. Fair Trade USA’s new policies do not require brands to list the actual percentage of content that is fair trade. In addition, the organization is eliminating a policy requiring brands to use all fair trade ingredients that are available.

This policy change follows an announcement that Fair Trade USA will work closely with Hershey’s chocolate in a limited fair trade engagement. FTUSA will not require a minority percentage disclosure that the majority of the product is not fair trade, namely sugar. In addition, Fair Trade USA will exclude dairy from its calculations, instead of just water which is more typical. This means that a milk chocolate bar with as little as 30% fair trade content will compete in the market with chocolate bars that are mostly or entirely fair trade. This fair trade hoax takes advantage of consumers’ intentions to buy fair trade products, creates unfair competition for the fully committed fair trade, and most importantly harms the farmers that supply truly fair trade brands with fair trade ingredients.

A certification program’s labeling policy impacts consumer understanding. Calling a product “fair trade” when the main ingredient is not fair trade is misleading to consumers, undermines the fair trade market, and ostracizes fair trade farmers. Fair Trade USA needs to reform its labeling process so it is transparent to consumers and discloses the percentage of fair trade ingredients.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Paul Rice, President of Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) has recently decided to allow the use of its fair trade seal on products containing only a minority of fair trade ingredients. These standards only require that the specific fair trade ingredient is listed in small text under the seal. Fair Trade USA is also electing to maintain its subpar threshold of just 20% fair trade contents to use a frontal label. Other fair trade certifiers have thresholds of at least 50% fair trade content in order to label the final product fair trade and many have requirements to list the percentage of fair trade ingredients. Fair Trade USA’s new policies also do not require brands to list the actual percentage of content that is fair trade.

Fair Trade USA needs to increase its standards and implement a labeling process that honestly reflects the content of its products. A certification program’s labeling policy impacts consumer understanding. Calling a product ‘fair trade’ when the main ingredient is not fair trade is misleading to consumers, undermines the fair trade market, and ostracizes fair trade farmers. FTUSA needs to reform its labeling process so it is transparent to consumers and discloses the percentage of fair trade ingredients. FTUSA also should also increase the threshold to 50% for a front seal that the product is fair trade.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: richardoyork via Flickr

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152 Signatures

  • Eric von Borstel
  • James Thrailkill
  • Hermann Kastner
  • Mal Gaff
  • Nancy Petersen
  • Terrie Phenicie
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